Town manager Roger Stancil is a completely different person in daylight than he is tucked away at the end of the dais during Town Council meetings at night. As guest speaker at the Friends of Downtown meeting Thursday morning, he was relaxed, gregarious and funny.
Stancil referenced signs that have popped up around town since he released his report on the Yates building incident. The signs demand, “Who’s Roger?” – in an uncomplimentary way. Looking every bit the conservative bureaucrat, Stancil introduced himself with, “I’m Roger.”
During his presentation at The Franklin Hotel, Stancil proved an able ambassador for the town, addressing a small crowd that truly wants Chapel Hill to be “open for business.” He was as lively and entertaining as anyone can be while harnessed to a PowerPoint presentation. With the help of bar graphs and pie charts, he explained where the town gets its money (nearly half of it from residential property taxes) and what it spends its revenue on (transportation was the largest slice of the pie).
What came across was how judiciously Stancil, as the town’s CEO, spends taxpayers’ money. He recognizes the folly of dipping into the town’s savings to pay its operating expenses. “When I charge my rent to my credit card, I’m in trouble,” he said, “and that’s what we’re doing.”
The town has used some of the bond money to cover its operating expenses, he said, and has adopted a pay-as-you-go philosophy to pay its retired employee pension and benefits bills. The town used to set aside $400,000 a year in supplemental funding toward its liability, as well as pay-as-you-go funding, but suspended the supplemental payments because of the tight economy.
The town might consider selling some of its assets, but each sale would have a trade-off. The town can’t afford the $800,000-plus it would cost to repair 523 E. Franklin St. to the point that it would pass a safety inspection. The conservation easements council slapped on the property to preserve its classic architecture would severely limit exterior changes to the property, and the parcel would require rezoning for any use other than a residence. The town would have a hard time finding a buyer even if were to sell the structure as is.
As a lowly freelance writer living in a town that is fast becoming a resort community, I am adept at stretching my dollars. It was gratifying to see that Stancil has a similar mindset and capabilities.
– Nancy Oates